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Even though internet of things (IoT) devices see use in the mission-critical requirement of near-100% connectivity, companies are prepared to accept poor performance relative to the connectivity levels they can achieve, an outcome that is highly concerning, according to a report from Eseye.
The global IoT connectivity services provider’s study focused on five different vertical sectors, namely EV charging and smart grid; healthcare and medical devices; manufacturing; supply chain and logistics; and smart vending. It examines the challenges and opportunities that are hindering and helping IoT adoption, compares IoT growth by market and vertical, and reveals budget forecasts for the next two years.
The research was conducted between 3 and 10 August 2023, reaching 1,009 respondents in total: 505 based in UK-headquartered companies employing over 500 people, plus 504 similar firms based in US-headquartered companies. The sample comprised senior decision-makers and implementers of IoT strategy who had undertaken at least one IoT project over the course of the past 12 months, with IoT devices deployed across at least three countries and that connect through cellular networks.
The top-line finding was what Eseye called the “shocking statistic” that companies are settling for sub-standard IoT connectivity performance, with only 1% of respondents achieving better than 98% connectivity levels on average across their device estates. In all, only 16% of respondents achieved more than 95% connectivity.
To put this into perspective, Eseye made the point that people should consider the near-catastrophic ramifications of IoT health and medical devices losing their connection and the human impact that might have, or an electric vehicle (EV) charger failing because of “mediocre” connectivity and the revenue lost as a result, not to mention stranded drivers.
The report also found that respondents appeared satisfied with their service despite experiencing connectivity levels that were seen as significantly below best practice. Moreover, it added that businesses lack the technical knowledge to make the most of their IoT investments and are compromising their chances of success by settling for second-rate connectivity. Even though investment and device numbers are increasing, the report warned that a failure to emphasise quality is holding the sector back.
There was consensus (81%) that getting the IoT device design right is key to an effective IoT project, yet operational failures are often down to the device, with over two-thirds (67%) of respondents saying that most of their IoT project failures are down to an issue at the device level. Worse still, they can’t find help when they need it. Almost three-quarters (72%) said embedded firmware developers were hard to find and in short supply.
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Nearly every respondent (95%) said indicated cost was an important aspect when choosing their connectivity provider. However, 71% admitted cheap commodity SIM and data connectivity providers were not a good long-term investment. This, said Eseye, highlighted the importance that value plays in IoT connectivity decisions. An example of this is that nearly all respondents (89%) agreed an end-to-end services programme that gives them access to IoT services under one roof would be beneficial to their business.
As many as nine out of 10 respondents said it would be beneficial for their business if they could assess their IoT project’s level of maturity and compare progress with industry peers. Additionally, 95% of US respondents said it would be beneficial to assess IoT project maturity, compared with 86% in the UK and 94% of US, where respondents said a monthly subscription service programme with all end-to-end IoT services under one roof would be beneficial, versus 84% in the UK.
Going forward, the report advised firms to make connectivity decisions that focused on long-term value. It also added that the majority of respondents (81%) expect the number of IoT devices in the field to increase over the next 18 months and nearly three-quarters (72%) are planning to increase their IoT budgets in the next two years. However, Eseye cautioned that respondents know all too well that unlocking success and getting it right leads to even greater success, which made it important to get connectivity and device design right first time.
“IoT connectivity success is about more than just buying SIMs and data,” said Eseye cofounder and chief operating officer Paul Marshall. “Breadth and depth of global coverage matters – how many cellular networks do you truly have access to? Is that coverage resilient and reliable enough for your business case? In order to achieve near 100% ubiquitous global IoT connectivity, a unique blend of network capabilities, hardware, device optimisation and professional service expertise is required.
“Buyers may be unaware that their connectivity is subpar as they may not have a suitable benchmark and are engaging in a false economy when cost is their top concern [and] not value,” he said. “The fact that buyers seem unaware connectivity performance is even an issue clearly points to a need to better educate the market around what should be acceptable to deliver IoT success.”
Eseye CEO Nick Earle said: “A change of mindset is needed where buyers understand the capabilities they are working with and invest in the right connectivity technology that will drive change for their unique business case.
“Increasing budgets allows IoT teams to invest in solving the problem by building connectivity-by-design into their products, rather than simply increasing the scale of inadequate devices. This survey demonstrates that there is a lot of demand and support for IoT, but we need to capitalise on this by educating buyers and solving business problems rather than just throwing money at an inefficient model.”